Gayle Greene, author of Insomniac, says that “sleep is the fuel of life. It’s nourishing; it’s restorative. And when you are deprived of it, you are really deprived of a basic kind of sustenance.”
Although we’d rank sleep up there with water, food, and shelter, we often act like it’s the least important–easily dismissed–aspect of our schedule. But without adequate sleep, we quickly see the adverse effects: weakened immunity, weight gain, mental instability, and even worse concerns such as diabetes, strokes, and some forms of cancer. We are more prone to yell at our family or fall asleep at the wheel when we are tired.
More than most cultures, Christians in America ignore the vital significance of resting. We scoff at it because we either feel like we don’t have time to relax or because we don’t have the humility to acknowledge the need. I’m superman, so stand aside, bed; I won’t be needing you.
To those of you struggling with the idea of a Sabbath, remember the biblical mandate was established prior to the fall. God illustrated the need for rest before Adam and Eve fell into a sinful and broken state. “Rest wasn’t an accommodation for our sinful state. Rest is God’s merciful provision for our protection.” So, we would do well to take these “divine pauses” (Lisa Harper, Hebrews: The Nearness of King Jesus). When we take time to rest–yes, even nap–we are saying, “Okay, God, I trust you to carry all this while I’m out.”
To those of you who want to sleep but find it elusive, don’t give up yet. First off, know you aren’t alone. Around 30-50% of Americans struggle with insomnia of some kind and more than a third of us aren’t getting the hours of sleep we need each night. I’d rather not, but I can empathize with this predicament. Here’s a few of the things I’ve done to help overcome my restlessness at bedtime. Since my insomnia is usually on the front end (staring at the ceiling, wrestling with covers, restless legs and racing mind, etc.) I’ve implemented some of these practices to help me go to sleep:
- Create the Environment: make sure your room is cool (temperature is important and a hot room is harder to sleep in); use a sound machine or soft instrumental music every night to help trigger your mind into relax mode; purchase a good pillow (My Pillow or a water-filled pillow work best for me) and use a pillow between your knees for optimal side sleeping.
- Supplement with a little help: Magnesium is a mineral most people don’t get enough of, but its calming effects help a person sleep. Lavender essential oil drops around the pillows can also help relax a mind. Melatonin in small dosages (for a short period of time) can set you on the path to better sleep. I use a 1-milligram sublingual when I take it, but I recommend not going higher than 5 milligrams.
- Reduce the stress before bed: Avoid blue screens (computers, cell phones, and the like). If you are sensitive to caffeine, don’t drink any (or eat chocolate) after lunch time. Steer clear of sugary treats in the evening as they can altar your blood sugar and cause sleep disruptions. Also, postpone weighty conversations with your spouse; try to schedule heavy talks for a different time. In addition to all these “no-no’s” DO exercise. Even walking, riding a bike or doing yoga right before bed will help burn off stress and release your mind from angry or anxious thoughts. Exercise relaxes your mind, releases endorphins, and exhausts the body, preparing it for sleep.
- Last, but not least, spiritually surrender: The Bible exhorts us toward confession. We have a Great High Priest who sympathizes with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15) and one who intercedes for us to the Father (Romans 8:34). Few things cause sleeplessness more than a guilty and burdened heart. Relinquish your sins to Jesus, the Redeemer of our spirits, and allow Him to wash your heart. Release worry. Fear of the unknowns and what-if’s can so plague our minds we can’t shut down and go to sleep. Trust Him with tomorrow, for He is already there and He promises not to leave or forsake us. Readjust perspective. Pray with gratitude and recognize all the day had to offer you.
A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.
~ Irish Proverb
Disclaimer: As always, I am not a doctor or a trained healthcare professional. I share what’s worked for me, but I recognize the risks of implementing all these factors in similar fashion for every person in every situation. We are all different. Therefore, if insomnia is an on-going struggle for you, consider talking to healthcare professional.